FORMER Colchester United playmaker Kevin Watson has paid a heartfelt tribute to his former boss Terry Venables.

Tributes have flooded in for the former England, Barcelona and Tottenham manager following his death at the age of 80.

Venables made more than 500 appearances for Chelsea, Tottenham, QPR and Crystal Palace, but would go on to make his real mark as a coach, also taking charge at Palace and QPR.

Venables gave Watson his debut as a youngster at Spurs in 1992 and the ex-U's midfielder has praised the former England boss.

Writing on social media, Watson said: 'Words cannot really describe how I feel right now. The man who gave me my 1st professional contract and a month later my professional debut for @SpursOfficial

'A coach with ideas yrs ahead of his time and a wonderful man manager and person. RIP Gaffa, sleep tight' #thebest


The nation rallied behind Venables' England team at Euro 96 in the summer football came home as the team brilliantly blew away the Netherlands 4-1 - Venables himself described the performance as "perfection: my most thrilling experience in football" - only to lose to Germany on penalties in the semi-final at Wembley.

The Football Association marked the passing of "a true football icon" and said: "Our modern game mourns the loss of not only a great character but an innovative, forward-thinking manager who was an inspiration to a generation of English players and coaches."

Current England boss Gareth Southgate missed the crucial spot-kick in that game against Germany and led the tributes to his former manager, who made famous the 'Christmas Tree' formation.


"Any player will have great affinity with the manager that gave them their opportunity, but it was quickly evident playing for Terry Venables that he was an outstanding coach and manager," he said in a statement.

"Tactically excellent, he had a wonderful manner, capable of handling everyone from the youngest player to the biggest star.

"He was open-minded, forward-thinking, enjoyed life to the full and created a brilliant environment with England that allowed his players to flourish and have one of the most memorable tournaments in England history.

"A brilliant man, who made people feel special, I'm very sad to hear of his passing and my thoughts are with Yvette and all of his family."

Venables' death on Saturday was announced by his family in a short statement.

"We are totally devastated by the loss of a wonderful husband and father who passed away peacefully yesterday after a long illness," they said.

"We would ask that privacy be given at this incredibly sad time to allow us to mourn the loss of this lovely man who we were so lucky to have had in our lives."

In Spain, Venables, who became known as 'El Tel', won LaLiga in 1984-85 and the Spanish league cup and also led Barcelona to the 1986 European Cup final where they lost to Steaua Bucharest on penalties after a goalless draw.

On his return to England he lifted the FA Cup with Spurs in 1991, but it was his spell as England boss at Euro 96 for which he is most fondly remembered.